Why the Story Tree?

After more than 50 years of producing print books, I am going digital. Future Wordshed tiles will hang on the Story Tree, to be joined eventually by earlier writings.  Down the line, we’ll open an online store. Webmaster Jackie is working out details.

To start with, I will post chapters on the Story Tree, mostly stand-alone stories.  The chapters will form e-books.  Expect variety. I have a weird propensity for working on several books at a time.  Time is what I have these days.

I serve an unruly muse. I can’t produce stories on command. A story’s ending may surprise me as much as the reader.

Why do I bother? I’m an old guy. Lord knows I won’t get rich. Writing is an affliction that strikes a few. There is no known cure.

I will try to focus on memoir books three, four, and five, restraining Tales from Johnson Junction and The Valley Vigilantes, the doings of seven ornery seniors who meet around the round oak table at the Kaffe Stuga.

The Hole News will pass along Story Tree action. www.holenews.org.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Book 5 Media Post 2

Book 5: Media Post 2 (Scroll down to Post 1)

Getting Published

Everyone who aspires to write a book knows the challenge of finding a publisher. Every publisher knows the challenge of finding manuscripts that will pay their way. Probably fewer than one in a thousand manuscripts find a publisher; and less than one in a thousand published books earn significant money. How then did an obscure executive of a small denomination latch onto five publishers and see a bunch of books into print?  Certainly neither my scholarship nor literary skill can account for it. My success resulted from providential timing and my niche interests.

I came to Chicago in the early ‘60s just as the Christian camping movement was transitioning from mostly adult-oriented Bible conferences to youth camps. Evangelical publishers listed practically no youth camp literature, and though the American Camping Association offered excellent resources, the theological mindset of traditional Christian leaders called for materials aligned with Christian camping distinctives.

And another factor: Christian camping had no national voice to coordinate leadership resource development. I came on the scene just as Christian Camping International (CCI) was forming. As camping director for our denomination with its strong Bible camp tradition, I became part of the founding committee and the resources sub-committee.

My first book, Camping Guideposts, had recently appeared as the first Christian camping handbook in the general market. When the limited first press run sold out quickly, Moody Press picked up the book, identifying me nationally with the new youth camping movement. Excellent books by Joy MacKay of Cedarville College and Free Methodist Christian Education leaders Floyd and Pauline Todd soon appeared, but my proximity to Wheaton College, where CCI organizing meetings were held gave me a leg up.

My lifelong passion for camping and the outdoors was well known. Writing camping literature was in line with my professional duties. Providence allowed me to write Camping Guideposts, which sold widely. Participation in CCI conference across America and Canada gave me broad exposure. And none of this was of my doing. Book assignments came.

Bob Kobeilush, President of CCI, wrote in his Foreword to Christian Camping Today that Lloyd Mattson had published more words about Christian camping than any person who ever lived. That may even be true.

How Many Books?

How many books have you written? That question comes often and my answer is always the same: I don’t know; I haven’t kept count. What books should I count? I have authored, co-authored, ghost-authored, and crutch-authored more titles than I can remember. That’s not a big deal; it’s just what I did as a journeyman editor-writer lacking in technical training but genetically disposed to writing. Most books came and went without stirring much fuss.

Curious to learn what was still out there, I googled Lloyd Mattson Books and found 19 different titles on Amazon.com and its used-book minions. Some titles listed for one dollar (sellers scrounge free books and make a buck on shipping). Other titles, considered rare, bore ridiculous price tags. Books we gave away by the thousands were respectably priced.

I came across a small book I had forgotten and got credit for a book on Cuba I never wrote, co-authored by a woman I never met. Readers must be hanging on to ­Night Watch; it appeared on no list.

The 19 titles included Camping Guideposts, my first book. It lived through many editions, six publishers, and over 100,000 copies, about 40 percent of my gross book output.  River City Press keeps it alive as Christian Camping Today.

 I have no idea how many books translators distributed in Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Afrikaner, and possibly others. I granted mission agencies blanket permission to translate anything I wrote.

Then there were about ten books I helped camps, missions, and individuals produce. Some I helped build from scratch; some I virtually wrote; some just needed editing. And I contributed chapters to several textbooks. I agree with the sage of scripture: of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the flesh. Ecclesiastes 12:12.


Book 5: Media Post 1

Book 5: Media. Post 1

Mixed Media

Talking was my main job through 60 years of ministry. By conservative count, I unlimbered over 8,000 sermons, Bible studies, workshops, banquet talks, campfire stories, and assorted other presentations. Figuring 30 minutes per speech (wishful thinking) at the normal 120 words per minute, I uttered at least nine million words in public. Makes one tired just thinking about it, not to mention how tired listeners got.

Radio began in Iron River, Michigan in 1950 with Melodies of Life, a Saturday evening 30-minute show with records and stories. That evolved into part-time work at WMUS in Muskegon, Michigan. In Anchorage I produced two 30-minute TV specials and in Duluth from 1978 to 1987 I did close to 2,000 North Country Notebook shows for WWJC. It was a weekday morning five-minutes, mostly taped, on outdoor themes.

Filmstrips: During my hitch on the denominational staff I got into filmstrips, a popular medium at that time. I wrote scripts, often narrated, and sometimes shot the pictures for perhaps a dozen filmstrips of varying length.

Writing: As reported elsewhere in these pages, my interest in writing began in childhood. I sold my first story in 1959. An uncounted number of stories, articles, essays, monographs, columns, and devotions followed. I wrote or ghost-wrote two dozen or more books with translations into several languages. I worked with several publishers and contributed chapters to several books. I wrote for Christian Service Brigade and Christian Camping International. Elsie and I ran two small publishing companies.

Wordshed Mission:  In1986 we took early retirement we set up the Wordshed Mission to tell the stories of quiet servants of the faith we had met. We planned two books, a few hundred copies. Reprints and new titles followed, and be 2011 the Mission had distributed over 30,000 print books and nearly a thousand audio books.

Blogging: Late in 2008, to keep the family apprised as Elsie faded, I began a group email to family and a few close friends. I called it the Hole News because I wrote it nightly during in my inevitable, sleepless, hole in the night, hence Hole News. The group grew by referral until the list reached nearly 250 names. In 2011 we moved to the Web: www.holenews.org.


How I Became an Author

The popular view gives the title author to people who write books. Writers, on the other hand, create short stuff for newspapers and magazines. Did you ever hear of a freelance author?

In 1958 our family moved to a mission church in Anchorage. There I sold my first story to a Sunday school paper for ten dollars, which made me a writer. I  sold  many more articles and stories, mostly for three cents a word, but my most profitable writing drew no pay.

I fired off missionary reports to our denominational magazine about summer camps and Boy Scout adventures. When our church troop died for want of leadership,  I wrote how the Lord sent us a gung-ho Christian Service Brigade leader. We started Alaska’s first Brigade battalion.

That drew the attention of Lawrence Swanson, our Conference Christian education executive. Under his leadership, the denomination had adopted Brigade as its official boys program. Camping was also in his bailiwick. In early autumn, 1961, Lawrence came to Anchorage to lead teacher training workshops. A friend for several years, he told me he was fighting a deadline for Tips, his leadership newsletter. The topic was using nature in the Bible camp program. He said, “Lloyd, I don’t know anything about that,” “Piece of cake,” I replied, and offered to rough out a piece for him. His relief was palpable.

Overnight I worked up 1,500 words which Lawrence read and put in the mail untouched. The piece came out under my byline. It won a minor award, got reprinted in other periodicals, and became a widely-circulated monograph.

Not long after the piece was published, Lawrence’s assistant resigned. His job description included camping and boys work. He left on his desk the outline and a draft of one chapter of a counselor handbook, Camping Guideposts. The deadline had passed; orders were piling up. Lawrence needed a new assistant in a hurry, one who knew boys work and camping and could write. He phoned me.

In January, 1962 our family moved to Chicago where I began a ten year hitch on the Conference staff. I finished Camping Guideposts in time for the summer season and became an author.

My job involved me in the beginnings of Christian Camping International. Venture, Brigade’s magazine for boys, invited me to write a regular column. Other assignments came and before long I gained considerable notice as a Christian camping and outdoor writer. Someone once introduced me as the Apostle of the Outdoors.

It’s curious to look back and note how seemingly unrelated circumstances merge to shape our lives. Writing became part of my work.

How I Became a Writer

When I was grade three, a circus elephant gave me glasses and opened my life to books and writing. It happened this way:

One day in early spring, Mother took sister Hazel and me to the circus, my first. The whole thing fascinated me, especially the huge tent with its three-ring flurry. How did all those clowns squeeze into that tiny car? Then Mother said, “Look!  An elephant!”  I looked but saw no elephant. That’s how my parents learned I had poor vision. I became the only four-eyes in the class.

I had learned to read from big-lettered flash cards in earlier grades, but I had no idea what the teacher was doing at the blackboard, and books were a blurry mystery. I could see the pictures and somehow managed, but when I got glasses, wow! I soon became Lester Park Library’s best kid customer.

I discovered Bob’s Hill books by Charles Pierce Burton; read everyone one on the shelves, some twice, and began to imagine writing stories like them. I recall lying on the Davenport in the living room of our small home it Duluth plotting a book, scene by scene. Someday, I told myself, I’d be a writer. Maybe even an author!  I never told anyone, of course. Authors were bearded dignitaries in a card game sister Hazel and I played. Maybe I’d just be a writer.

Teachers said I had the flair. I wrote poems but hid them. I read Horatio Alger, Jr. books by the dozen and devoured Tarzan. I discovered  Hopalong Cassidy, Clarence Mulford’s cowboy hero, and moved on to many other authors.  Essays were the easy part of school. Later, when I moved about as a pastor, I inherited district newsletters.

The Standard, our denominational magazine, gave me my first published article, “God Bless our Little Church” about a woman who bugged me every prayer meeting by closing her prayer with that phrase. She stressed little. Hey! We had over 100 in Sunday School. My piece declared there are no little churches. We were the biggest church those kids had.

My first for-pay piece came ten years later in Alaska. A Sunday school paper bought my story about a boy fishing trout for ten whole bucks!  Finally, at age 37, I was a professional writer.

More stories and articles followed, along with regular reports to the Standard about our mission church in Anchorage. Those reports played a major role in my first book.